First Lady Asks Troops to Become Teachers
Special to American Forces Press Service
NAVAL STATION SAN DIEGO, March 28, 2001 With the USS Shiloh and USS Decatur as a backdrop, first lady Laura Bush asked retiring service members to start a second career in teaching.
"You answered the call to serve your country in the finest armed forces in the world," she said to more than 1,000 sailors and Marines here March 23. "As you prepare to leave the military, we ask you to turn your attention to the home front, to Uncle Sam's classrooms, where we need your service as teachers."
"America's schoolchildren need you," the first lady told the military audience. "I'm here to enlist or, rather, re-enlist your help through the Troops to Teachers Program."
Established in 1994, the program was designed to give service members and civilian employees of the Department of Defense and Department of Energy affected by military downsizing new opportunities to pursue new careers in public education. Program funding for fiscal 2001 is $3 million.
The first lady said her husband "intends to boost funding for Troops to Teachers from $3 million to $30 million to help skilled professionals continue to serve our country -- this time in our classrooms."
Bush, a former teacher and librarian with a lifelong passion for reading, has long been an advocate of education. White House officials say she intends to continue to focus on this area that plays such an important role in our nation's future.
"Over the next 10 years, schools in our country will have to hire thousands of teachers to keep up with our growing student population," she said. "As many of you know already, there's a teacher shortage, particularly in underserved, inner city and rural areas. As we confront this need, we turn to former military personnel for their help.
"My husband thought I was kidding when I told him I was going to call in the military," she noted. "But he supports me 100 percent, and he supports you 100 percent. Troops to Teachers is designed especially for you, as you move from the battleships to the blackboards as America's newest teachers."
The program helps former service members earn their teaching credentials. Once certified, the program helps them find teaching positions in their home states, or wherever they decide to live after retirement.
"We're looking for the best and brightest minds to serve in our classrooms," the first lady continued. "We want people like you, who have qualities that make excellent teachers - - an ability to thrive on overcoming challenges, a drive to achieve results and a commitment to reaching every goal you set."
Nearly 4,000 former service members have joined the ranks as teachers under the Troops to Teachers Program. Bush said many of them have science, math and engineering degrees, "disciplines and subjects that our children and our schools definitely need."
"Beyond that, you're tremendous role models, with a sense of duty, honor and country that our children need to emulate," she said. "The challenge is different, but the reward is great."
The first lady said her commitment to the Troops to Teachers Program is to make sure no child is left behind.
"This naval station is a training ground," she said. "Skills are sharpened and refined here. Men and women become true leaders here, and when you're not deployed, you're teaching and learning from one another. It's this kind of duty that translates into a career in teaching."
Bush saluted retired Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Anthony Reese and others who've made the switch from troop to teacher. Reese, a fourth-grade teacher at San Diego's Audubon Elementary School, said his 30 years in the military give him credibility in the classroom.
Reese said he's been teaching since he joined the Marine Corps at age 17. "So I was able to deal with people, understand people and care for them, with a firm yet fair hand," he said. "I think we bring that into the classroom, and I think our children really appreciate that."
Troops to Teachers is a "vital and instrumental program in getting quality people into the educational system," he stressed. "It's an opportunity for military retirees and those looking forward to retirement to pursue something that I feel is important -- the education of our children - - and our children are the future of the world."
For more information on the Troops to Teachers Program go to voled.doded.mil/dantes/ttt.
(Petty Officer 1st class Scott Sutherland is assigned to Naval Station San Diego.)